How Does Government Legislation Affect Farming and the Environment?

picture of the U.S. Capital building Voices from Knox County:

"I don't think the government has ever produced one ounce of food and I don't think they ever will."

"The powers that be want to get rid of small farmers and get into bigger units so they're easier to control. They say agriculture and food is too important a product to be controlled by farmers, so they say the only way to change this is to get rid of the human resource of the farm."

"I don't think that we need legislation to put restrictions on farmers to maintain conservation practices. I think that we need to have incentives; when the incentive is there, the will is there. And [the government] has taken a lot of those incentives away from us."

Recently, the government passed a new Farm Bill which, over the next seven years, will phase out the majority of farmers' subsidies. The old Farm Bill, which had been in place since the 1930s, provided subsidies which encouraged farmers not to cultivate certain land--in the name of conservation--and paid them to grow certain crops. The new bill will give farmers more freedom to plant where and what they choose. During the 1970s, when similar legislative restrictions were lifted for a short time, there was tremendous economic growth accompanied by environmental degredation.

Government legislation has historically promoted conservation in many ways. Programs requiring fields to lay fallow promoted soil conservation by reducing farmland erosion. Another program leases farmland located along water ways. This is an effort to protect fragile wetland habitat. This program has remained unchanged in the newly passed farm bill.

For more information on the 1996 Farm Bill, click here.

photo credit: Farm Journal, March 1995

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